More fun than a 41 year old is supposed to have

Bombing down lanes in the countryside, unpaved lanes centuries old, often little wider than the handlebars, pedals catching greenery, stingers and brambles getting my shins. Out beyond Bramdean, up towards Cheriton and Tichborne Down, the bumpy tracks crossing the battlefields of the Civil War, where the sign tells me the lanes ran with blood, as the Royalists retreated and were shot down. Around Cheriton wood, I’ve never been in all these years, and then shooting downhill as fast as I dare on bumpy tracks, not knowing what’s around the corner. Pretty damn fast, having so much fun in the late summer, returning to the joys of cycling.

Wild Swim

More cycling this afternoon, this time with friends, down to the Itchen for a wild swim. I’m not going to publicise the location, kind of like a secret spot in surfing. All I’ll say is it isn’t too far from the source, so the water is still very clean and clear. Such fun to be in the water! Cool, tingly fun. It being another unusually warm day, and after the cycle ride, I was ready to cool off. I stood in the shallow water above the pool and my feet went numb. When I briefly got out I couldn’t feel them. But that cold didn’t stop me. I used the old ‘Baltic Tom’ (as The Barefoot Doctor called me) method of counting to five then, no matter what, jump or dive in. Jumping was more appropriate in the Itchen, it being less than a meter deep in most places that high up. At the old sluice gate, if that’s what it is, the current was so strong, and walking against it a real effort. By carefully testing, I learnt it was fine to rush though on the current, even head first. After about ten minutes, goosebumps all over, that was enough. We dried off and warmed up in the heat of the late afternoon sun, snacking on nuts, fruits and oatcakes. The cycle home was a killer, especially the last climb up to Brockwood. I even broke my ‘no lower than than the largest front chain ring’ rule to get up that hill. Someone shot some video so I hope to post that soon.

Safety in numbers:

Sam having none of it:

Float, float, float yourself,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Winchester Ride

Navigating lanes and tracks, today I cycled a 32-mile loop to Winchester and back, in bright spring sunshine. I took the northerly route via Alresford and the Itchen Valley on the way, taking a detour past Cheriton Wood where the Civil War battle was, and back via the South Downs. It was my first ride of the year. The bike was looking a little sorry after the winter under cover, but after a quick dusting of webs, removing some leaves, wiping the saddle, some air and WD40, I was good to go.

At Wolfhanger Farm, proper free range chickens. I stopped to watch. Some of them were almost playing, darting around, running fair distances.

After Bramdean Common, I took a detour up above Park Dale, along the back of Cheriton Wood, where I’d never been before.

The other side of that hill was the site of a famous battle in 1644 during the Civil War, a major victory for the Parliamentarians with the Royalists forced to retreat, burning Alresford as they fled north. A memorial carving:

After shooting down a track to Alresford, I went to Itchen Stoke. There’s an unusual church – check out those windows and the intricate roof tiling:

And a slightly bigger one in Winchester, through the spring leaves:

After lunch in the city, sitting on the grass enjoying the warm sun, I picked up the Itchen again near the Bishop’s pad:

Then south as far as St Catherine’s Hill where I crossed the M3. Long queues of cars heading for the coast. Just before the motorway was a small travellers’ site, with maybe 6 caravans, some tents and vans. I walked up onto Twyford Down, lamenting the major gash caused by the M3 gorging through it. Then towards Owslebury. A nice font on the old signposts:

I was now high on the downs and with, thankfully, easier riding east past Mill Barrow and passing Hinton Ampner house, way below:

After that it was pretty much all downhill, with a long swoop past Riversdown House. It was good to be out, exercising, seeing all there was to see, pumping up the many hills and delighting in freewheeling down the other side, a big smile on my face.